Since we started our last blog post 2 days ride north of New York, it feels like we've been riding through one big city. Yesterday was the first day back in the countryside, having left Philadelphia and headed straight inland. The entire population of Canada is less than the population of greater New York and Philadelphia. Continuing to follow the coast would have led us through more of the continuous city, into Baltimore, but we needed some fresh air and open roads! (Not that we won't get enough of that when we officially turn west in a few days!)
All that said, the day before we reached New York (following the Hudson River Valley) we did find a hidden oasis in a suburban town park! We stopped for a picnic supper as lacrosse and soccer players gathered for evening practices. There were some trails leading away from the playing fields that didn't seem well used, so we followed one into the woods and emerged at the top of a cliff just as the sun was setting behind the Catskill mountains beyond the river. Further along, we found that the trail switchbacked its way down the hill and came out at the base of a waterfall! Even better (for a hot and sticky pair of cyclists), people had built a rock dam to create a perfect swimming hole! After our dip we set up camp tucked away in the woods.
New York New York
Being typical tourists... the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was great fun, and we also enjoyed people-watching in Times Square, Central Park, and in the subway!
We really enjoyed Chinatown, especially this park where people of all ages were gathered to play (and watch) Chinese chess and other games, shell (and sell) nuts and socialize.
Our fantastic hosts, Jane's mum's cousin Ger and her husband Pete. Love and thanks!
The George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, an incredible piece of engineering. We didn't ride the bike around New York City, and riding across this bridge reminded us why. Even on bicycles New Yorkers keep up their reputation for always being in a hurry, even on their Saturday morning ride! That was nothing compared to the bridges we would soon find ourselves on (by mistake, having got off the recommended cycling route), which didn't have a separate space for pedestrians and cyclists. Let's just say it got a bit HAIRY!!! But we made it through alive, and were soon back on the route we were supposed to be on.
The above-mentioned route led us straight into the middle of a street fair! Jane was looking at some cheap sunglasses (having lost 2 pairs already so far) when a bunch of people started talking to Eric... this is normal, but in this case we ended up with something of a crowd gathered round, asking questions and taking pictures. In the end one woman, whose affection for the colour purple reminded us of Eric's mom Shirley, gave us each a big hug! All the stress of New Jersey highways fell right off us after that!
Lady Luck was definitely with us at that street fair, because a bit further along we saw a booth for the East Coast Greenway (a cycling route that connects stretches of trails (mostly rails-to-trails) from Maine to Florida, with the goal of one day developing a completely off road route the whole way). We'd seen signs for it at various spots along our route and wanted to check out the maps. Chatting with the fellow at the booth, we learned that he and his wife had cycled from Maine to Florida on a semi-recumbent tandem. She rides in front, pedalling with her arms (she uses a wheelchair) and he rides upright in the back. In the end they invited us to stay at their house, and the stories we heard that evening were nothing short of inspirational. The next morning we met their daughter's family too at an all-you-can-eat Father's Day fundraiser breakfast! Great (and late!!) start to the day!!
We switched onto the East Coast Greenway at that point, and it took us on some gorgeous trails in New Jersey. In Pennsylvania though, long stretches of trail are not yet completed and the alternate on-road routes were pretty busy with traffic. After Philadephia we headed inland back to the Adventure Cycling Association route.
Philadelphia's historic district was great fun! Eric slept under a tree while Jane wandered around Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell... and got drawn into a re-enactment of the War of Independence! She was "recruited" to the Continental Army to fight the Red Coats. Hip hip, HaZAH! After passing the tooth inspection (they had to have at least 2 teeth, 1 up and 1 down, to open the gunpowder packets), she learned how to march, attach a bayonnet to her musket, and CHARGE! alongside her fellow recruits (mostly children and their parents) towards the (terribly frightened) onlookers. ;-)
David was the first fellow cycling tourist we've talked to so far (we've seen others but only in passing), and the first Canadian we've talked to since Maine (where a group of young Quebecois girls were causing a rucous in a campground bathroom). A great chance to share experiences people who haven't done it simply don't understand!
We get a little bored sometimes... ;-)
Back to the countryside, straight into Amish country! We feel right at home among the buggies and bicycles.